Heather Haberman: Introduction July 1, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Haberman

Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 5 — 17, 2011 


Mission: Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location: Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date: Friday, July 1, 2011

Heather Haberman
Heather Haberman, Science Teacher at Scottsbluff High School in Nebraska

Pre-cruise Personal Log: 

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Heather Haberman and I have been a science teacher at Scottsbluff High School in Western Nebraska for the past six years.  I LOVE being a teacher and sharing my passion for science with others.  Everyday brings a new adventure and there is rarely a dull moment.

Zoology and Environmental Science have always been my primary interests which motivated me to obtain a degree in Biology.  This degree allowed me to pursue positions such as a Research Assistant with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, an Animal Caretaker with the US Department of Agriculture, a Forest Protection Officer with the US Forest Service, as well as a Zookeeper and Education Curator for Riverside Zoo.  As an Education Curator, I realized how much fun it was to teach science so I decided to go back to college and earn my Education degree.  These real world experiences have helped me make science more fun and applicable to the lives of my students.  This is one of the reasons why I am so excited about being selected to participate in the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.

Oregon II
NOAA's research vessel the Oregon II

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere.  Next week I will begin working alongside NOAA scientists on a groundfish survey in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Oregon II.  Their primary summer objective is to determine the abundance and distribution of shrimp by depth. Other objectives include obtaining samples of commercially important fishes, such as red snapper, and crustaceans.  This data enables scientists to predict population trends which allows government officials to regulate the fishing industry in a more sustainable fashion.  It is also important to collect weather (meteorological) data and physical ocean (hydrographic) data to look for climatic trends and to assess the health of the ocean.  Plankton samples will also be collected since they play a key role in the oceanic food web and are good indicators of ecosystem change.

The Mississippi watershed drains approximately 40% of the Unites States, including Nebraska.

I am excited to be a part of this scientific research team collecting data about the health of our fisheries and oceans.  I hope that bringing back real scientific stories about research at sea will help my students from the Great Plains feel more of a connection to their watershed and the oceans of our planet.  Being over a thousand miles away from an ocean makes it easy to dismiss the fact we rely on the sea for so many of our resources, and how our actions impact the marine environment.

I will be posting updates on this blog three to four times a week.  I would like to answer as many of your questions as possible while on my mission. What would you like this sea-faring teacher to inform you about? Would you like to know about the ship; the jobs of my co-workers; marine life; ocean chemistry; my duties aboard the ship; science at sea; etc?  Leave me a message by scrolling to the bottom of the blog post and select “Leave a Comment”.  I can’t wait to hear from you.

8 Replies to “Heather Haberman: Introduction July 1, 2011”

  1. Hi Heather, I think its pretty cool that your out snooping around in the gulf of mexico, sounds very interesting!! when you get a good count of the “Spiny Lobster” let me know how many and more importantly where they are at!! hahaha. have fun hope you have a fantastic experience.. Steve

    PS. If you get close enough to Key West give us a jump and we’ll come pick you up…

    1. So far no spiny lobsters (just a lot of really cool crabs) but I’ll be sure to send you a message if we do!

  2. Hello Heather,
    I was watching the news a few minutes ago and heard a piece on your participation in the Teachers at Sea program. How cool is that? I look forward to reading your blogs. Interestingly, I just had a discussion with a fellow Audubon Society member about contacting you to see if you would be interested in giving a program about one of your many environmental activities. Just thought I’d put a bug (shrimp?) in your ear.
    Enjoy your adventure!
    Connie McKinney

    1. Connie,
      There is an ornithologist on the ship collecting bird data. I’ll be sure to post our sightings for the Audobon Society members to look at.

  3. Way to go! Mrs. Haberman I really like the fact that you are documenting your experience as you do research at the Gulf of Mexico…. I’m more than happy to have had a teacher as great as you are. 🙂 I willll be looking forward to keep reading your findings…. I will love to read about everything you do as a researche 🙂

  4. Heather,
    Very interesting. I am interested in any information related to fish as part of our food supply including safety from food born illness concerns, how to determine which fish are better selections from an environmental/ecological standpoint and how the research potentially helps chefs and consumers.
    Our garden is getting watered and most plants are growing (including the weeds!)

    1. Visit this site for some wonderful resources and consumer Seafood Watch cards (or download the App) http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

      Great question Suzanne! According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations fish is quite safe when it is handled hygienically. Most outbreaks of illness occur due to poor refrigeration, environmental contamination (e.coli) and poor manufacturing practices.

      Aside from human error, there are instances when the fish themselves may not be safe to eat. Some fish actually make their own toxins which can make us sick if we eat them. Other times fish may have a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection that can make us ill if we ingest the microorganisms while they are still alive. This is why people get sick more often from eating raw seafood as opposed to cooked seafood.

      My roommate on the ship just moved from Hawaii and last night at supper she was telling us how an entire ship’s crew, except for two people, once contracted ciguatera. Ciguatera causes typical food poisoning symptoms but it also has neurological symptoms, such as reversing a person’s sense of hot and cold, tingling sensations and feeling like your teeth are falling out. These symptoms can last for years in some people.

      This toxin is produced by microscopic sea plants which live in coral reefs. These plants are eaten by small fish which are then consumed by larger predatory fish such as grouper, sea bass and snapper. When a person eats one of these fish, they consume the concentrated toxin which has been passed along the food chain.

      As for sustainable seafood choices, there is a wonderful program called Seafood Watch that has an App, or pocket cards, that highlight the best choices to make when purchasing seafood. Fishing practices worldwide are damaging our oceans, depleting fish populations, destroying habitats and polluting the water. It’s important to make informed decisions when purchasing seafood because not every country follows environmental guidelines and some populations of fish are in serious decline. This program informs the consumers, cooks, and suppliers so they can make the right purchasing decisions. These FREE guides are constantly being updated using the latest scientific research so be sure to check back often.

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